Some children I taught once saw a man blow away another man’s head on their way home from school. He looked at them as he held the gun to his victim’s head and laughed as he pulled the trigger, The next day I held a session to let them talk about what they were feeling. During this discussion, they shared other incidents of violence they had either witnessed or suffered from…
Here is one of the stories they shared…
- 15 year old girl….
- I was walking home from school with two of my friends. I was about eleven at the time. A man pulled up alongside us in his car and took out a gun. He shot my two friends dead and then put the gun to my head. I was crying and praying. He smiled at me then got into his car drove away.
The rest of the students started crying, but the girl telling the story kept her heart in check. She said she had already cried all she could for that day and had no more tears to shed.
There were many other stories that day that were just as horrifying as this one, many other stories that never made it into the news.
In a room full of about twenty children, every hand went up when I asked how many of them had friends or family members who had been murdered. It’s no big deal one child said. “People get killed all the time.”
I grew up in a neighborhood in the city that though extremely hip at the time, was still a drug-heavy community where murals of dead kids were as common as the sneakers hanging from the telephone lines. The eighties in Alphabet City or as it is called now, in the L.E.S., was a time of addicts swaying in the wind and long lines of cars with Jersey plates waiting for their turn to stop at a corner to pick up their drugs. And during this time I lost friends to the madness of our urban community at war with itself. Yet, all those experiences still did not prepare me for sitting in a room full of children who were carrying traumas usually children from war torn countries have to carry, Sure, children from Sierra Leone suffer from PTSD, but children from Brooklyn???? Isn’t Brooklyn the coolest, hippest area in the world????
- 14 year old boy…
- I saw my friend get jumped by about twenty guys. We were walking to school and they saw us from across the street. They called my friend’s name and told him to go over to them. He told me to keep walking and to not look back. Pretend like you don’t know me he said. I tried not to look when he crossed the street. I also tried not to look when they knocked him to the ground and took stuff from his pockets. But when he started screaming, I couldn’t help myself. When I turned around, I saw all of them stomping on his body as he lay in a ball on the street.
- 17 year old girl….
- I was about to leave school when one of my neighbors came running in the school and started whispering to the dean. I saw her pointing at me but could not hear what she saying. I remember thinking that mom would be mad if she knew this lady was in my school pointing at me. My mom hates when nosy people talk about her kids and according to my mom, this woman was the nosiest neighbor on the block. The dean walked up to me and took me to the principal’s office. When I asked him what I had done, he said that I had done nothing wrong. He said that something happened outside and that they wanted all the kids to stay in the school until it could all be cleared up. I thought to myself that there were already kids who had left school and that maybe he should go out and bring them back in. I also thought that even if there were other kids who were being kept in the school building at the end of the day, then why was I the only one going to the principal’s office. I asked how come no other children were called to the principal’s office and he said that the guidance counselor would explain. After about an hour of having the principal and the guidance counselor sitting with me not saying much of anything, my aunt came to pick me up. The minute I saw her, I knew it wasn’t good. Later on that day I found out my older brother had been shot dead in front of the school and that he had died bleeding out in front of my friends. If I had walked out a few minutes earlier, I would have seen him too,
The other day when the shooting took place in the school in Florida, I felt my heart break like many other people in the country. No child should have to suffer what those children suffered. Yet, I also could not help but think that this is but another manifestation of a war that has been taking place for decades. Children have been dying from the violence of America’s streets for quite a long time and this tragedy is part of a long line of tragedies in our history. But media and politicians don’t seem to see it this way. When school shootings likes this one take place, they are presented as if they are something that came out of the blue, as if they are not connected to the thousands of shootings and other acts of violence brown and black children suffer everyday.
Now it is a national crisis. Now congress needs to act. Now the president must give a speech. Now the people must stand up. Now the funds need to be put into place. Now more social workers need to be put in schools. Now more security measures must be initiated. Now the police must be better prepared. Now media needs to report on the reasons for shootings. Now Governors need to act. Now crying parents need to be heard. Now young people need to protected. Now we have a crisis. Now the country must produce a solution. Now…. Now…. Now….
And when the media stories die down and the NRA continues to sell its guns and the congressmen continues to do nothing…. Or better yet, if all of that changes and the world is made safer for children like the ones in that Florida school, then I wonder, will the world ever be made safer for our children who are being killed everyday on our city streets, all the brown and black children whose pictures are not being shown on the cover of magazines or in CNN reports, all those children who just plain get killed while America waits for the next school shooting to take place so as to awaken our sense of injustice?!!!
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